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Scandal in Sports: Use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs by Professional Athletes

All across the country, we root for our favorite teams. As a nation, our allegiance to sports and the ritual of watching them or playing them is second nature, and often begins at birth—we are born into families of athletes or spectators, who were born into families of athletes or spectators years before.

For many, sports are in our blood.

So, too, for many of today’s professional athletes, is the proclivity for substance use to increase their athletic performance and ability.

Drug abuse in professional sports has been a topic of heavy debate in recent times. Star players from star teams are making waves within the media—whether for failed drug tests or revelations of prior experiences with illicit substances. With headlines of drug-related scandals emerging on a daily basis, it seems that national conversation surrounding the subject has only just begun.

According to CNN, the use of performance-enhancing drugs, otherwise known as “doping,” has been a complicated issue within the world of professional sports since the 1960s.

Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) can include the following:

  • Stimulants (including amphetamines)
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Androstenedione
  • Creatine
  • Erthyropoietin

Competitive athletes often speak of their determination to win. We see Olympic victories being heralded all over the globe; we see championships being celebrated and records being set. The natural drive for athletes to succeed—and excel—is something that has existed since the earliest days of competition in history.

Research from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) reveals that over 3 million Americans use performance-enhancing drugs. According to this data, the use of PEDs is now more common than type 1 diabetes or HIV.

Major American sports organizations, including the NBA, NFL, and MLB have issued bans on PEDs. Each round of Olympic Games involves thousands of drugs tests, and in many cases, disqualifications.

And while the desired side effects—like increased muscle mass and strength—may enhance athletic performance in the short-term, the long-term effects and risks of continued use are many.

Over time, the use of PEDs can lead to impotence, balding, and up-and-down moods fueled by anger. In the long-run, more serious side effects can include heart and liver damage, while the risk of stroke and heart attack also increases.

While PEDs, particularly anabolic steroids, do not produce the same feelings of euphoria that are typically associated with the use of illicit substances, experts remind us that they still contain addictive properties.

When athletes using PEDs become accustomed to the effects of PEDs, such as larger muscle mass, they naturally want to continue use to maintain their appearance and heightened performance in their sport of choice.

Upon quitting use of PEDs, individuals can experience withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite, or fluctuating moods.

PEDs also contribute to another problem. As Malcolm Gladwell stated, “The sad thing about doping is how much it obscures our appreciation of greatness.”

In a society that focuses so largely on being “the best,” PED use has become an unfortunate side effect that comes with dangerous side effects all its own.

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